How Long Does it Take to Notice a Difference With a Kettlebell?

Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings builds strength with kettlebells.
i Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

You’ll probably notice right away a difference with a kettlebell, as you feel your glutes engage to swing the asymmetric weight upward and your lungs burn with effort. But how long it takes to notice a difference almost certainly pertains to improvements in functional strength, visible muscle and shedding body fat. While pros such as Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings perform kettlebell work year-round to stay powerful, you’ll see noticeable improvements in a shorter time frame.

Within Three Weeks

If you work with kettlebells three times a week, “you’ll see changes in weight -- fat loss -- in three weeks,” says certified personal trainer Tim Morgan, who trains clients using kettlebells at the Mac Harbor East health club in Baltimore, Maryland. Kettlebells have an advantage over free weights, he notes, in that the heart rate stays up as you do timed or high-count repetitions. The stasis as you cool down between free-weight sets hampers weight loss; “if the heart rate drops, you don’t get fat loss,” Morgan notes. Sarah Lurie, a certified Russian kettlebell instructor, concurs, telling “San Diego” magazine that you can see a smaller waist and sleeker muscles in three weeks.

Within Six to Eight Weeks

Visible muscle development or hypertrophy takes longer -- six to eight weeks, according to Morgan, depending on reps, sets and intervals. (ref #2) This is the same time frame as with other free weights, he observes. But “kettlebells are so ‘cardio’ in nature, that, if you have a circuit going, you burn fat too,” Morgan adds. Dave Randolph, also a certified kettlebell instructor and author of “The Ultimate Kettlebells Workout,” agrees. Randolph notes that four to six weeks of swings, squats and snatches lead to greater strength, balance, coordination and cardio function.

Within Three to Four Months

If you are 50 years old or older, allow yourself a longer time to notice a difference with kettlebells. If you are new to exercise, you may need 12 to 16 weeks to notice a change, writes seniors exercise guru Karl Knopf in “Kettlebells for 50+.” Listen to your body and avoid being in too much of a hurry, which can lead you to getting hurt and quitting. Similarly, Randolph advises sticking with basic exercises such as swings, deadlifts and squats for your first three months, before attempting more challenging exercises.

How It Works

In its report “Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time,” the American Council on Exercise looked at claims that kettlebells are so effective because they blend strength and cardio challenges into one tiny package. The ACE report found an average calorie burn of 272 calories in a 20-minute snatch workout. This stellar figure links to the fact that a snatch workout is done quickly and involves the total body, exercise researcher Chad Schnettler notes. In addition to swings and snatches, you can perform Turkish get-ups with light kettlebells as a beginner. Over time, you can work up to the clean and press, rows, windmills and dozens of additional variations.

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